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16. January 2015

Work Relationships Post-Transition

by Leslie W. Braksick, PhD MPH, Co-Founder and Senior Partner, My Next Season

One of the most common things I hear from folks as they prepare to transition out of their FT corporate roles is how much they will miss “the people.” (I am sure if they expanded their thoughts—they would reveal that they’d only miss some of the people!!) The week before Christmas I was speaking with a former client about this very topic. John and I worked together over a decade ago when he was CEO of a Fortune 10 Operating Company. John and I have a wonderful tradition of exchanging “live Christmas cards” as we call them. We speak by phone the week before Christmas every year, in lieu of sending a written Christmas card. We confessed to one another how much reinforcement we got just from just hearing one another’s voices and stories live…and so our tradition began.

John was catching me up on his year that included many hours logged cheering on the sidelines of his grandchildren’s sporting events; chairing the board of his college alma mater; giving talks at a local business school; and taking several trips with former colleagues from work. I was interested in all that he shared—but found myself hearing the stories about his trips with former colleagues with newfound interest. The couples he and his wife went with were former direct reports (with whom I would have said John had a professional, mutually respectful relationship but would never have used the word “friends.”) I elected to inquire further.

I asked John, when in his decades of knowing these folks, did his relationships with Marty, Jim, and Ed become “friendships”? He was quick to share that it really happened post-retirement. John said that he always respected these men (which I knew to be true….) and he and his wife knew their wives from corporate events (which I also knew to be true…), but he said it was after they had all transitioned out of the company and were unencumbered by organizational hierarchy and reporting relationships that the relationships turned into close friendships. He said they shared a lot of the same interests and felt free to know one another differently and in new ways. He said it was so nice because they had a long, shared history that included knowledge of family members, all of which made conversations easy, interesting, and readily available.

It struck me as I listened to John speak, how much more powerful work relationships can be when the work part goes away. Like so many things in life, it seems the key is to invest in those you care about and comfortably leave the rest behind.

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